Even after Washington’s Nationals scored 11 runs total on 15 hits in the second of two with the Tampa Bay Rays in the nation’s capital, Tanner Roark’s average of 2.92 runs of support per start was the second-lowest total among qualified National League starters.
It’s been a rough month-plus for the right-hander, who was winless in six games with a 3.67 ERA, 11 walks, 29 Ks, and a .232/.307/.376 line against in 34 1⁄3 IP over that stretch, before he took the mound against the Rays on Wednesday afternoon in the nation’s capital.
Roark was coming off a start which saw him give up season highs in hits (7) and walks (5) in 6 2⁄3 IP in his start in SunTrust Park during last weekend’s series with Atlanta, allowing four earned runs in that outing, and returning for an inning of relief work in the series finale and giving up two runs on two hits as the Braves walked off on the Nats.
After tossing a scoreless, 14-pitch first on Wednesday, Roark helped his own cause with an RBI single as part of a five-run first, and he took the mound in the second up 6-0 on Tampa Bay.
He completed three scoreless innings before giving up a run on back-to-back, two-out hits in the fourth.
C.J. Cron hit a 2-2 changeup off the left field foul pole in the fifth for a solo shot that made it 6-2, but Roark wrapped up his outing with a scoreless, 13-pitch sixth inning, and four runs in the bottom of the sixth blew the game wide open.
Roark earned his third win of the season, snapping his winless streak in what ended up an 11-4 win.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 84 P, 55 S, 8/4 GO/FO.
“We wanted to keep the leash short on him today being that he pitched a couple days ago, and it worked out great,” Davey Martinez said of the support the Nationals provided for the starter.
“I liked the fact that he threw strikes,” Martinez added, “worked ahead in counts and kept us in the ballgame like he always does.”
“I thought he was tough,” Rays’ skipper Kevin Cash said. “He had a good slider. Early on he kind of established that that was going to be his go-to pitch.
“I know he mixed in the curveball throughout his outing,” Cash added, but the fastball/slider combination and looking at the highlights after somebody had swung and missed or something you could tell why, it was kind of like black-to-edge off the plate, and any time a pitcher is able to locate like that it’s going to make it tough.”
Roark said he had a feel for his pitches this time out, especially his two-seam fastball.
“Two-seamer was really moving,” Roark told reporters. “I tried to utilize that a lot, offspeed was so-so. I felt the slider was pretty good, but overall we scored five in the first, which is always good, just give you a little breather and relax a little bit and go out there and do your thing.”
When Roark says the two-seamer was really moving, he’s not kidding:
“Some days you have it, some days it will still move, but I just tried to throw it as hard as I could and just made sure if I missed my spot it would be inside and just ran over back on the inner part of the plate, and [catcher Pedro Severino] said he was surprised about it too, and I went back and looked at it because I thought it was a good one... and... it was a good one.”